In the context of three online workshops, EUSALP AG7, Impuls4Action and Peatlands in the Alps projects came together with peatland stakeholders from all around the Alps to find out gaps of knowledge and action within alpine wide peatland-protection. In addition, new peatland research projects reveal interesting approaches for follow up activities…
PEATLANDS IN THE ALPS – ONLINE WORKSHOPS FOR PEATLAND STAKEHOLDER IN THE ALPINE SPACE & RESEARCH PROJECTS ON CLIMATE RELEVANCE AND BIODIVERSITY AS ECOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS
Peatlands are an essential part of an intact Green Infrastructure network. They provide the habitat for distinctive flora and fauna and are therefore a significant factor with regard to bio-diversity. As peatlands store large amounts of sequestered carbon, the protection and preservation of peatlands is an important component of combatting climate change. Briefly, peatlands provide diverse ecosystem services:
- Climate protection
- Promotion of biodiversity
- Flood protection
- Water filtering
- Cooling microclimate
- Enhancement of the landscape
- Strengthening the regional economy
Peatlands in the Alpine territory are more and more endangered and under negative pressure, particularly caused by industrial development and climate change. In valleys, peatlands are often drained for agriculture and forestry, in the ski areas and hiking regions they get destroyed by touristic developments and in higher altitudes they are damaged by intense graze. Climate change has more severe dynamics especially in the Alpine regions regarding changes of temperature, precipitations and water balance. So far, these challenges have mostly been tackled regionally, although the Alpine peatlands extend across international borders. However, there is no joint transnational expertise and strategy for the protection of peatlands in the Alpine region.
Therefore, EUSALP AG 7 members together with the ARPAF II project “Impuls4Action” and the Alpine peatland project of HSWT have developed and initiated workshops on a transnational level. Between October and December of 2020, three online workshops for peatland stakeholder in the alpine space were realised to find out gaps of knowledge and action within alpine wide peatland-protection. 90 participants from Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia took part in the exchange of experiences on the topic ‘peatland protection in the alps’ and created a comprehensive network. The workshops were implemented in cooperation with the project “Peatlands in the Alps” which is financed by the Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment and Consumer Protection and the Fundaziun Pro Terra Engiadina, carried out by the University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf.
With the workshops, a first fruitful step was made, to find solutions for joint challenges and to uncover urgent need for action and gaps in knowledge and data. It is the beginning for more communication and knowledge exchange between peatland experts of all alpine countries. The exchange about specific problems in peatland protection between the alpine countries could improve peatland conservation, restoration, and management practice for the benefits of all. The idea of an alpine wide large-scale implementation project to improve networking, peatland protection and the knowledge database is positively seen. In the workshops, several interesting and important topics, which could be solved in a larger follow-up project, were mentioned. For instance, to improve the mapping of peatlands or joint research projects on grazing or climate change effects on peatlands in the Alps. Additionally, it was suggested that better communication and raising awareness is needed as well as more and better-trained peatland professionals.
In close cooperation with the project "Impuls4Action", the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection has also commissioned the research project “Alpine peatlands - acquisition of data to assess climate relevance and biodiversity as ecological functions” running from December 2019 to March 2021 and lead by Professor Dr. Matthias Drösler (University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf). The project aimed at summing up – with the help of field studies and interviews – existing data on surface extension and status of peatlands, as well as on necessary protective and developing measures.
As an interim output of the project, two master thesis have been implemented:
• Anna Reichart, TUM, supervised by Professor Dr. Matthias Drösler
• Felicitas Oswald, HSWT, supervised by Professor Dr. Matthias Drösler
One main result from Anna Reichart’s thesis was for example that peatlands cover at least 3.1% of the project perimeter. Switzerland shows the highest area share (39%) of the determined total peatland area in the perimeter, followed by the Austrian part (28%) and the German part (26%). The French (5%), the Italian (2%), and the Slovenian part (0.1%) and Liechtenstein (0.2%) have significantly lower area shares. One reason for the uneven distribution is the mentioned lack of data availability. The data availability of peatlands in the Alps is quite inhomogenous and characterized by a high variability, e.g. in terms of accuracy. In this context, first steps such as creating GIS-map (“geographical information system”), have been made. Nevertheless, further steps, such as for example the research of further available data, the assessment of the data qualities, new inventories and mappings, data-compilation and -harmonization and acquisition of additional data on the peatland state indicators are needed and subject to future research projects.
As a main output of the project and based on the discovered gaps in knowledge and failures in action, it is envisaged to design a follow-up project on a larger scale as a key activity of EUSALP AG 7 and serving as a “roadmap” for peatlands in the Alpine area. An important component of the project is the involvement of local actors and therefore a bottom-up approach. In this context, the future LIFE programme 2021-2027 could be addressed.
All in all, Impuls4Action, Peatlands in the Alps and EUSALP AG7 will promote the future exchange of all participants and will inform about further steps. We hope you also inform us about new projects, political development, or new ideas regarding peatlands in the Alps. The participant’s lists in the annex of the workshops report can be used to contact people and to trigger networking activities. Together we can work on conservation and rewetting of peatlands in the Alps in favour of the biodiversity, climate, and humans!
Further information on the main project can be found on the Impuls4Action project website: https://www.impuls4action.eu/
Peatlands in the alps – Online Workshops for Peatland Stakeholder in the alpine space (Summary of results from three workshops)